Grace Gems for DECEMBER, 2013

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The choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian!

(Thomas Brooks)

Remember that it is not hasty reading but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, which makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul.

It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee which gathers honey but her abiding for a time on the flower which draws out the sweet.

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Is Christ your Lord?

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

"Keep me safe, O God, for in You I take refuge.
 You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing."
    Psalm 16:1-2

"You are my Lord," that is, the ruler of my life.
Your will is my law.
Your precepts are my directory.
Your commandments are my guide.
I look to You alone for strength in every time of need.
I walk by Your word, with a view to please You.
I take You to be my Alpha and Omega, my first and last, my all in all!
I renounce all other objects of worship. "O Lord, our God, other lords besides You have ruled over us, but Your name alone do we honor!" Isaiah 26:13

"You are my Lord!" therefore I expect You to keep me, provide for me, shelter me, guard me, and defend me . . .
   in every time of trouble,
   in every season of affliction,
   in every circumstances of danger,
   when in pain and suffering,
   when in want and woe!
I have turned from others, and turned to You, crying, "You are my Lord!"

Is Christ your Lord? Then own him everywhere. In every place. In all companies. Go no where, join no society, where you cannot own, and acknowledge God to be your Lord.

Is Christ your Lord? Then obey all that He commands you. Ask for no reason, listen to no excuse but whatever He says to you, do it! His commands test the sincerity of your love. Will you live, denying the flesh, going contrary to general custom, simply because the Lord bids you?

Is Christ your Lord? Then always live as in His presence.
You are ever with Him.
His eye is always upon you.
He bids you walk before Him.
Think, knowing that He reads all your thoughts.
Speak, realizing that He hears all your words.
Act, feeling that He observes all that you do!

Is Christ your Lord? Then consecrate your person, time, and talents to His service.
Do this practically.
Do it constantly.
Do it sincerely.
Do it so that everyone who lives with you, or carefully observes you, can sincerely say, "He is the Lord's!"

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There is no darker sin than ingratitude!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Hour of Silence" 1899)

"Jesus asked: Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?" Luke 17:17

Only one leper returned to give God thanks nine continued on their way unmindful, ungrateful. And why was that?

Perhaps they knew the danger of committing themselves to Jesus, knew that He was narrowly watched and suspected, knew that even to receive a cure from Him was in itself an offence to many. My Lord, I seek grace not to be so cowardly!

Perhaps they were afraid that now the Master would have a claim upon them and would begin to press the claim. He who had given them their health, might demand their loyalty; and they were not ready to yield it. My Lord, I would be more consecrated than they!

Perhaps they were seized with the wish to mix with the world, to go back to its affairs, to play their part in its business. They were impatient of delays which detained them from the promotion of their own interests. My Lord, I would learn to hate such selfishness!

Perhaps they thought that they had only got what was their due. They thought that the loathsome disease was an injustice and a grievance, and health was their right and they need not be profoundly grateful. Ah my Lord, teach me to watch against this self-conceit and pride!

Perhaps they told themselves that their Benefactor was no longer necessary to them. The pressure of urgent need was past, and its disappearance makes a vast difference. My lord, let me never forget Your untold benefits.

There is no darker sin than ingratitude! I entreat You Lord Jesus, to save me from it.

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How slowly we learn it!

(J.R. Miller)

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another." John 13:34-35

How did Christ love His disciples? How did He demonstrate His love to them? Was it not, among other ways . . .
  in His wonderful patience with them with their faults, their ignorance, their unfaithfulness;
  in His considerate kindness;
  in His ever-watchful thoughtfulness;
  in His compassionate gentleness;
  in His ministering to them in every possible way?

What is it, then, to love one another, as He loves us? Is it not to take His example for our pattern? But how slowly we learn it! How hard it is to be gentle, patient, kind, and thoughtful to one another! Still, the lesson stands and waits for us, and we must never falter in learning it.

"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8

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As though it had never been!

(Octavius Winslow)

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us!" Romans 8:18

Beloved, soon, O how soon! all that now loads the heart with care, and wrings it with sorrow all that dims the eye with tears, and renders the day anxious and the night sleepless will be as though it had never been!

Emerging from the entanglement, the dreariness, the solitude, the loneliness, and the temptations of the wilderness you shall enter upon your everlasting rest, your unfading inheritance, where there is . . .
  no sorrow,
  no sin,
  no suffering,
  no crying,
  no evening shadows,
  no midnight darkness!
But all is one perfect, cloudless, eternal day for Jesus is the joy, the light, and the glory thereof!

"And so we will be with the Lord forever!" 1 Thessalonians 4:17

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!" Revelation 21:4

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A torch to light people to Hell!

(Thomas Watson)

"You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror!" James 2:19

Bible knowledge without repentance, will be but a torch to light people to Hell!

You who have knowledge of God's will, but do not obey it wherein do you excel the demons, who believe and tremble?

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Call Him 'Father' in the furnace

(Thomas Sherman, "Aids to the Divine Life A Series of Practical Christian Contemplations" 1680)

"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:10-11

The afflictions of the wicked are punishments from God as an angry Judge!
But the afflictions of the godly are chastisements from God as a gracious Father!

The afflictions of the wicked, moreover, are preludes to their future misery!
But the corrections of the godly, are preparations for their future glory!

"See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction." Isaiah 48:10. Under all afflictive dispensations, therefore, hold fast upon God; call Him 'Father' in the furnace!

Keep up honorable thoughts of God as to His dealings;
and low thoughts of yourself as to your deservings.

"All the paths of the Lord (in reference to His people) are mercy and truth," Psalm 25:10. In our affliction, God in mercy is fulfilling some of His faithful promises for our good. He will not allow His children to go on in the way of sin, without seasonable rebukes to bring them again to Himself. If you would, therefore, discern the goodness of God in your affliction, consider wherein you stand in need of it.

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The work of our great high priest at present

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

"Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because He always lives to intercede for them! Such a high priest meets our need one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens!" Hebrews 7:25-26

As believers, we should look upon our great high priest, as having . . .
  put away our sins from before God,
  reconciled our persons to God,
  justified us fully and freely at the tribunal of God,
  procured for us all spiritual and eternal blessings.

The work of our great high priest at present
, is to render our persons, prayers, and services acceptable to God. Every prayer which ascends from us to God, passes through His hands who cleanses, arranges, and perfumes it, and then presents it to his Father. Thus He renders our poor imperfect prayers, praises, and services acceptable and pleasant to our God and Father.

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The song of the glorified has three notes in it!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Hour of Silence" 1899)

"And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation! You have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth!" Revelation 5:9-10

The song of the glorified has three notes in it:

1. There is the note of Redemption. You purchased me with Your blood. Jesus ransomed me the slave of sin, of frailty and futility, of dark despair! And not by a mere act of sovereignty and might. No but by breaking the alabaster vase of His unblemished body for me, and by pouring forth the costly ointment of His blood. It will be the theme of my praise through the unending years of eternity!

2. There is the note of Royalty. "You have made us kings!" O wondrous thought to quicken the torpid pulses of my soul! I will sit down with Him on His own throne, and He will share His great empire with me!

3. There is the note of Consecration. "You have made us priests!" I am, through Jesus Christ my Lord, a white-robed, white-souled worshiper, thanking and adoring God, offering to Him the incense of prayer, presenting to Him continually the sacrifice of my praise, lifting up holy hands in ceaseless intercession!

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Our Condition God's Mercy!

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

Many of the Psalms are poetic records of God's mercy towards His ancient people, calling upon them to bless and praise His most glorious name. Israel's history forms a mirror in which we see our own spiritual history. Oh for grace, so to read it, meditate upon it, and exercise faith in it as to permanently profit by it. My eye is now fixed upon one important verse, a record of God's goodness to them, and equally so of His kindness to us, "Give thanks to the One who remembered us in our low estate; for His mercy endures forever!" Psalm 136:23

OUR CONDITION. LOW. We were not created so but were brought into it by Adam's sin, who . . .
  represented us,
  ruined us, and
  laid us low!
Our own conduct sunk us lower still!
We are now, by nature, so low, that we cannot be lower!
We are now so vile, so weak, that we could not be worse!

Look at man in reference to God he is God's determined foe!

Look at man as under the Law he is condemned, condemned to everlasting burnings!

Look at man in the world he is its dupe victimized by its fashions, customs and spirit.

Look at man in connection with Satan he is Satan's vassal, Satan's abject slave inhabited and influenced by Satan. Not only so, but he is led captive by Satan to do his will!

Look at man in association with his fellow men see his craft, cruelty, and covetousness!

Look at man ruling the brute creation what lack of feeling, care and kindness! Often, man seems to be sunk even lower than they!

GOD'S MERCY. This was . . .
  freely fixed upon us,
  is very great towards us,
  and will always distinguish us.
He remembered us and sent His Son to redeem us!
He remembered us and sent His Spirit to quicken us!
He remembered us and sent His Word to instruct us!
He remembered us and sent His ordinances to comfort us!
He remembered us and sent His grace to sanctify us!
He remembered us and sent His rod to correct us!

He remembered . . .
  our guilt and provided an atonement,
  our weakness and provided strength,
  our danger and provided a refuge,
  our destitute state and provided for us a home in Heaven.

"The One who remembered us." It was not the exercise of God's memory merely but the exercise of His memory influenced by immortal love. It was . . .
  a father, remembering his child,
  a bridegroom, remembering his bride,
  a God, remembering His poor fallen creatures, who were the objects of His love, and whom He had determined to save! Blessed, forever blessed be the Lord, for remembering us in our low estate, for His mercy endures forever!

Mercy is man's best friend. It is that in God which . . .
  looks upon us with pity,
  feels for us with sympathy, and
  exerts itself for our relief and deliverance.

Divine mercy was personified in Jesus, and wept over us, stretched out its hand to help us, and shed its blood to save us. Mercy never thinks that it can stoop too low to reach us, or do too much to help us, or that anything is too good or too great to confer upon us.

Mercy is God's darling attribute.
He delights in mercy but it is never said that He delights in wrath, in judgment, or even in power but He delights in mercy. He delights to display it to His chosen people.

God is said to be . . .
  of great mercy,
  plenteous in mercy,
  abundant in mercy.

His mercy is said to be . . .
  great unto the heavens,
  multitudinous and tender, and
  from everlasting to everlasting!

God's mercy should be our heart's theme. We should think of it, speak of it, and sing of it.

We should set God's mercy against . . .
  our sin,
  our misery,
  our deservings.

We should rejoice in its freeness, fullness, and immutability. Let us think more of God's mercy than of . . .
  our trials,
  our troubles,
  or our foes.

God's mercy will . . .
  follow us,
  comfort us,
  and crown us!

God's mercy . . .
  began with us of its own accord,
  came to us unsought and unsolicited,
  raised us from our low estate,
  has heaped favors upon us,
  will not leave us now but will follow us all the days of our life,
  will comfort us . . .
    in all our tribulations,
    against all our sorrows, and
    make us a match for all our troubles!

God's mercy will crown us at last!
Mercy will accompany us to the dark valley, and through it.
Mercy will conduct us to the Jordan, and over it.
Mercy will lead us up into the holy city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Mercy will place a crown of pure gold, or of sparkling glory, upon our heads, that we may wear it to its honor forever and ever!

O beloved, how will God's mercy look, when we contemplate it in the light of glory when from the holy city we look back upon the past, and lift up our voices and sing, "To the One who remembered us in our low estate; for His mercy endures forever!"

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Living stones!

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

Peter having spoken of Christ as a living, precious stone, adds, "You also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5

WHAT ARE BELIEVERS? "Stones," for every Christian has that in him which is solid, durable, and ornamental.

The grace of God gives a man solidity he cannot be as light, trifling, and vain as he used to be. He has solid and settled thoughts upon high and holy subjects; he has solid hopes and joys. He is not carried about with every wind of doctrine but becomes established and settled in the faith.

He is durable too. Others fall away but he endures to the end. Once fixed on the foundation, once really united to Christ, he remains built on Christ forever.

He is ornamental too. Some stones are capable of taking a very high polish, and so is the Christian. The polished stones in God's temple will catch the rays of His glory and reflect them; and in every stone, the great Builder will see His own lovely likeness reflected.

They are living stones. They are living, each one being quickened by divine grace, and made new creatures. They are lively, made so by divine communications, and kept so by fellowship with Jesus, the life-giving stone.

These living stones are not thrown together in confusion but each one is fitted for his place before he is put into it. Every separate stone is laid on the foundation, which bears the entire weighs of the whole building. All the stones are united to the foundation, by a cement so strong, that nothing can ever separate them. The Holy Spirit acts as the cement in this spiritual building. He . . .
  brings us to Christ,
  lays us on Christ,
  unites us to Christ, and
  keeps us in eternal union with Christ!

These living stones are a holy priesthood.
Being stripped of their natural and carnal coverings,
being washed in the laver of regeneration,
being clothed with the garments of salvation,
and covered with the robe of righteousness,
and being consecrated by the application of the blood of atonement, and the holy anointing oil, the unction from the Holy One they are prepared and qualified to officiate in this living temple.

These living stones are to offer up spiritual sacrifices. This they are to do continually, the sacrifices of prayer and praise, which like holy incense, ascends as a precious perfume to God.

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John Wesley's rule for Christian living:
   Do all the good you can,
   by all the means you can,
   in all the ways you can,
   in all the places you can,
   at all the times you can,
   to all the people you can,
   as long as ever you can!

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The hand of Jesus!

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

The miracles of Jesus are as marvelous displays of mercy, as they are of power. They show His sympathy with man in his sufferings, and His readiness to help him. 

On one occasion a ruler came to Him for help, knelt before Jesus and said, "My daughter has just died. But come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live." Matthew 9:18

THE CONDITION. The child was DEAD. Disease did its work, death seized its prey before Jesus reached the house. In the same way, how many we have in our homes, congregations, and neighborhoods who are spiritually dead. There are no signs of life at all. They can live without prayer, which is the breath of the soul; and surely where there is no breath, there is no life. They have no faith, and faith is the spiritual energy of the soul. They have no activity in God's ways, they put forth no energy in God's cause, nor do they manifest any concern for God's glory. Surely such are dead, and in such cases there is no hope, except Jesus will come and lay His hand upon them.

THE APPLICATION. "My daughter has just died. But come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live." The hand of Jesus was a wonder-working hand! It was the instrument and emblem of almighty power and divine mercy. Many things are ascribed to the hand of Jesus in the Word.

It is a life-quickening hand, "He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose." His touch imparted life, strength, and activity to the dead girl.

It is a healing hand, "He laid His hands on the sick, and healed them." His hand expels spiritual diseases, and introduces spiritual health.

It is a saving hand, when Peter was sinking in the sea, Jesus put forth His hand and caught him, and placed him safely in the vessel. He saved Israel of old with His right hand and His hand saves millions now!

It is a devil-dispossessing hand. When a father brought his demon-possessed boy to Jesus, the devil threw him down and tore him, "but Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up, and he arose." The hand of Jesus expelled the demon, restored him to health, and he went away with his father.

It is a leading hand. He took the blind man by the hand, led him out of the town, and restored his sight.

It is a far-reaching hand, hence He says, "Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver?" "Behold, the Lord's hand is not so short that it cannot save!"

It is a purifying hand, therefore He says, "I will turn My hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities." "His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor."

If therefore we need . . .
  quickening or healing,
  saving or leading,
  deliverance from Satan, or
  to be purged and purified
however distant we may seem from Him, or however difficult the work we require to be done let us go to Jesus, and ask Him to lay His hand upon us, and restore us.  In the same way, if any of our families and friends are spiritually dead, let our cry to Jesus be, "Come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live!"

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What amusements are lawful to people who wish to live a holy life?

(R.W. Dale, "AMUSEMENTS" 1895)

What amusements are lawful to people who wish to live a holy life
is one of the questions by which many godly people are sorely perplexed. Many yield to the current customs of the times but yield with hesitation, discomfort, and apprehension.

At first sight, some of the distinctions which have been drawn between amusements which are permitted, and amusements which are forbidden, appear to be altogether arbitrary. They seem to originate in no moral or spiritual principle. Why should card-playing stamp a man as "worldly" and chess be perfectly consistent with devoutness? Why should people take their children to a circus who would be horrified at their going to a theater? The things allowed are so like the things forbidden, that the distinction which has been drawn between them will probably be pronounced by many people to be altogether irrational.

Many of the broad moral distinctions which evangelical Christians make between amusements which are very much alike, receive an easy explanation when we consider the very different accessories with which, either in our own days or in former days, they have been associated. There can be no more harm in playing with pieces of colored cardboard, than with pieces of carved ivory; but cards have been always associated with gambling, and chess has not.

The traditions of what is allowable, and what is forbidden, which have come down to us are explicable; and if we are people of sense, we shall ask whether the same circumstances which made certain amusements objectionable a hundred years ago, or fifty years ago make them objectionable now.

Profanity, impurity, and cruelty are always evil whether connected with our amusements or with the common business and habits of life. Whatever tends to these things is evil too. If any recreation, however pleasant, involves a clear breach of moral laws then it must be bad for all men and under all circumstances. Or if, though harmless in itself, immorality has become inseparably connected with it, every good man will avoid and condemn that particular amusement.

Prize-fighting, cock-fighting, and bull-baiting are plainly barbaric sports. It is utterly disgusting that men should be able to find any pleasure in them; and the right feeling of English society has made them all utterly disreputable.

But there are amusements which cannot be called immoral either in themselves or their accessories, about which a good man will have serious doubts.

The object of all recreation is to increase our capacity for work, to keep the bodily health strong, and the brain bright, and the temper kindly and sweet. If any recreation exhausts our strength instead of restoring it, or so absorbs our time as to interfere with the graver duties of life then it must be condemned. Amusements are objectionable which interfere with regular and orderly habits of life, and which, instead of increasing health and vigor, produce weariness and exhaustion.

The common reason alleged for condemning certain amusements in which no moral evil can be shown to exist, is that they are "worldly." But there is no word in our language which is more abused than this. The sin of worldliness is a very grave one; but thousands and tens of thousands of people are guilty of it, who are most vigorous in maintaining the narrowest moral standards. One would imagine, from the habits of speech common in some sections of religious society, that worldliness has to do only with our pleasures, while in truth it has to do with the whole spirit and temper of our life.

To be "worldly" is to permit our transcendent relation to Jesus our Lord to be overborne by inferior interests. There is a worldliness of the counting-house as fatal to the true health and energy of the soul as the worldliness of the ball-room; and there are more people whose loyalty to Christ is ruined by covetousness than by love of pleasure.

There is a worldliness in the conduct of ecclesiastical affairs, quite as likely to extinguish the divine fire which should burn in the church as the worldliness which reveals itself in the frivolity of those unhappy people whose existence is spent in one ceaseless round of gaiety.

Let no man think that he ceases to be worldly ceases, that is, to belong to that darker and inferior region of life from which Christ came to deliver us merely by abstaining from half a dozen of his old recreations. Not thus easily, is the great victory won which is possible only to a vigorous and invincible faith. Not thus artificial, are the boundaries between the heavenly commonwealth of which the Christian man is a citizen and the kingdom of evil from which he has escaped.

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There is no 'chance' in God's world

James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

"God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away!" Matthew 24:35

Believer, are you tried, perplexed, and troubled? God is faithful to His Word, for He has said, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows."

Have you to pass out of one trouble into another, and is one trial but introductory to another? God is faithful, for He has said, "We must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God."

Are your trials of a fiery, consuming, and parching character? It but confirms His word, for He has said, "I will bring them through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold."

Every trial you meet with,
every trouble you pass through, and
all the temptations you experience
but serve to confirm the truth of God's Word; and if rightly viewed, and properly improved, would strengthen your faith.

There is no 'chance' in God's world.
There is no mistake in God's dealings.
There is nothing really severe in God's dispensations.
All has been arranged by infinite wisdom,
all is brought to pass by a special providence, and
all is, at the darkest moment, working together for your eternal good!

Let us then mind His "Fear nots."
Let us confide in His unalterable promises.
Let us rely on His immutable faithfulness.

He set His love upon His people freely at the beginning, and having loved them, He will love them to the end. To every one of His chosen and redeemed people, He gives everlasting life, and assures them that they shall never perish. The love that made them His, will keep them His, and keep them His forever.

Cheer up then, poor tempted tried believer, God is faithful to His Word, and He will not fail you, nor forsake you but will make all things work together for your good, and glorify Himself in you.

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Wounding Jesus!

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

"I was wounded in the house of My friends!" Zechariah 13:6

Whoever loved like Jesus and whoever was wounded like Him? Literally in the days of His flesh and figuratively or spiritually since He has gone to glory. Hence the language of the prophet is most appropriate to Him, whether originally intended for Him or not.

THE PARTIES COMPLAINED OF. "My friends." All who call themselves Christians, and profess to be the friends of Jesus.

THE PARTY COMPLAINING. This is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the only party who never ought to have reason to complain, and who never would complain without a reason. Yet no one has such cause for hourly He is wounded in the house of His friends.

Yet, He is the personification of love. Love in all its fullness, tenderness, and glory, dwells in Him. He is emphatically love, and He never had one feeling in His heart towards His friends, nor dropped one word from His lips to us, nor did anything in His dealings with us but what flowed from love. Love . . .
  reigns in His heart,
  looks through His eyes,
  speaks with His tongue,
  and works with His hands.

Let us listen to HIS COMPLAINT. "I was wounded in the house of my friends!" Precious Lord Jesus is it true that You are wounded still? Can it be that Your people, Your professed friends, wound you? Alas! it is too true.

WHO wounds Him? Every inconsistent believer. O Christian, will you, can you, wound that Savior, on whom alone your dependence is placed, for . . .
  help in life,
  hope in death, and
  glory beyond the grave! Yet . . .
by the irregularity of your walk,
by your lukewarmness,
by your half-heartedness,
by your mixing up with the world, and
by your lack of thoroughness in His cause
  you wound Him!

WHAT wounds Him? Our pride, selfishness and worldliness.
We think so much of ourselves and so little of Him.
We pay so much attention to ourselves and so little to Him.
We give so much of our time, our talents, our energies to the world and so little to Him.

How could we insult Him more, than by preferring ourselves, our ease, our pleasure, our wealth, our reputation to Him; except it is by preferring the world, which is His enemy, to Him?

O beloved, how deeply have our pride of heart, and worldliness of spirit, wounded Jesus!

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The sufferings of this present life

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

Cheer up Christian, every day you are so much nearer to your eternal home! Never was the end of the journey so near as now; never were there so many troubles behind you, and so few before you, as now. It is all up hill until you reach the celestial city you will therefore find it more or less difficult unto the end. But,
  when you arrive at home,
  when you enter into the holy city,
  when you see your precious Lord Jesus,
  when you enjoy the presence of God
  then all will be well, and well forever!

You will be in your Father's house your holy, happy home! You shall know no lack, nor will your desires remain ungratified. There will be . . .
  no toil there,
  no crosses or burdens to carry there,
  no foes within nor without to face there,
  no tears or pains there,
  no conflicts to endure there.

Five minutes with Jesus and then what shall you think of all your earthly temptations, toils, trials, and troubles? One hour in Heaven, with the certainty of being forever holy, and forever happy what will all your earthly afflictions be then?

Then, then, shall you understand the apostle when he says, "I consider that the sufferings of this present life are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be conferred on us!" Romans 8:18

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Our own health, wealth, and gratification

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

By nature, every man is nothing but a mass of selfishness, seeking self-gratification in a variety of ways!

The less we indulge SELF, the better. Selfishness is . . .
  the bane of our happiness,
  a bar to our usefulness, and
  renders us unlovely to both God and others.

One of the most beautiful traits in the character of our Lord and Savior, was His unselfishness. He never seemed to please Himself, or consult His own ease. He was everyone's servant, and everyone's friend. Through His whole life, His own testimony was illustrated, "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28

We are naturally selfish, and seek our own health, wealth, and gratification, as our grand end. Selfishness clings to us, and appears more or less in our whole conduct.

But the gospel calls for self-denial, and bids us take up our cross, and follow our self-denying Master. The gospel requires dedication to God, that we may live to Him and for Him; and it directs us to seek the good of others of all that are around us. What the gospel requires true grace produces; and it will struggle and fight with all our selfish principles until it prevails.

We have lived long enough for ourselves! Would not we be more happy, and profitable to others if we were less selfish, and more thoroughly imbued with the self-denying spirit of Christ?

Do we not live too much to ourselves? Do we not think too much of our own comfort, and pleasure, and ease?

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:3-5

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A life of simple, active, and absolute dependence on Jesus!

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

"Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need!" Hebrews 4:16

Let us have sincere daily dealings with Christ, bringing . . .
  our sins to Him that He may pardon them;
  our duties to Him that He may purify, perfume, and present them to His Father;
  our hearts to Him that He may cleanse them, soften them, and sanctify them;
  our troubles, trials, and temptations to Him that He may give us strength to bear them, and grace to sanctify them, and that He may make them all work for our eternal good.

We must come to Christ . . .
  for all that we need,
  with all that troubles us, and
  through all that opposes our progress.
We must make Jesus our strength as well as our righteousness; and look to Him as a fountain to supply us as well as a foundation to support us.

Absolute dependence on Jesus to be utterly helpless, is a blessed state! Then we are safe, for we dare not . . .
  look to self,
  depend on self, or
  rest in any religious observances.
We must . . .
  look to Jesus,
  cleave to Jesus,
  live on Jesus.
Then all boasting is prevented, and all confidence in the flesh is destroyed.

Our strength arises from a sense of our weakness,
our safety arises from a sense of our danger, and
our wealth arises from a sense of our poverty.

Weak in self we are strong in Christ.
Exposed to danger in self we are safe in Christ.
Poor in self we are wealthy in Christ!

The life we live must be a life of simple, active, and absolute dependence on Jesus!

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There must be no conditions in the following of Christ

(J.R. Miller, "Help for the Day")

"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me!" Luke 9:23

Christ calls for absolute surrender to Him. He wants us to trust Him, while we obey Him unquestioningly.

The faith in Christ which the gospel requires, is the utter unreserved devotement of the whole life to Him, and the absolute committal to Him for time and for eternity, of every interest and hope.

The question of what He will do with us or for us, or how He will provide for us should not for an instant be raised. There must be no conditions in the following of Christ, and the consecration to Him. We may not bargain with Him for an easy time, for "ways of pleasantness," but should simply give ourselves to Him absolutely and forever, to follow where, and to whatever He may lead us.

"Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple!" Luke 14:27

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Broken people!

(Don Fortner)

"The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit." Psalm 34:18

A broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a subdued will are rare things, especially in this age in which men everywhere are taught to demand their rights; and the church has become a place where man is exalted and enshrined as though he were God. Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-promotion is the cry of the day. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes. All men by nature are exceedingly proud, selfish people.

Preachers today, knowing man's natural pride, have capitalized upon it. They have developed a flesh-pleasing theology of pride. Our forefathers exalted the dignity, the majesty, and the supremacy of the eternal God. But the smooth-tongued preachers of deceit in our day have set themselves to exalt the dignity, majesty, and supremacy of puny man! It seems that religion today is dedicated not to the honor of God, but to the honor of man. Its purpose is to make man feel good about himself. Therefore we hear little about . . .
  brokenness of heart,
  contrition of the soul, and
  the subduing of man's will.

The Lord God declares, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word!" (Isaiah 66:2). God will have broken hearts with which to build His kingdom. Sooner or later, the Lord God will bring us to nothingness before His presence. God's people, all of God's people are a broken people.

No man has ever experienced the grace of God in salvation, until his heart is thoroughly broken before the holy Lord God, revealed in the crucified Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. If ever a man finds out:
  who he is,
  who God is,
  who the Lord Jesus Christ is,
  and what He has done for sinners
  he will be a broken man!

When Job saw himself in the presence of his three miserable friends, he vindicated himself. But when he stood in the presence of God, he was a broken man; and he spoke as a broken man. He saw himself in all the hideousness of his sin; and he saw God in all the holiness of His glorious majesty. Then he said, "Behold I am vile! I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!" There is no pride and egotism here, no haughtiness, no self-vindication. Once Job had seen the Lord he was broken, he loathed himself and blamed himself. Once Job saw the Lord he honored God and vindicated Him. The truly broken heart will always vindicate God, no matter the cost.

This brokenness can be produced in proud, stubborn, sinful men and women only by the saving revelation of Christ in our hearts. Brokenness is found at the cross only at the cross. Have you been to the cross? Have you had the crucified Christ revealed in your heart? Has your heart been broken by the knowledge of the Lord? O Lord, evermore break our hearts before You!

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Psalm 51:17

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Unconscious unpurposed influences

(J.R. Miller, "Help for the Day")

It is not what a man does or says purposely and with direct intention, which leaves the deepest mark in the world and in other lives but it is the unconscious unpurposed influences which go out from him like the fragrances from a garden. Character is not necessarily what the man does but what the man is!

There are great multitudes of humble Christian lives lived on the earth, which have no name among men, whose work no pen records and no marble immortalizes but which are well known and unspeakably dear to God; and whose influence will be seen, in the end, to reach to farthest shores. They make no noise in the world but it does not need noise to make a life beautiful and noble. Many of God's most potent ministries are noiseless.

How silently all day long the sunbeams fall upon the fields and gardens and yet what cheer, what inspiration, what life and beauty they diffuse!

How silently the flowers bloom and yet what rich blessings of beauty and fragrance do they emit!

How silently the stars move on in their majestic marches around God's throne and yet the telescope shows us that they are mighty worlds representing utterly incalculable power!

The silent personal influence of a holy Christian has a healing, life-giving effect wherever it falls. Such a man goes about his daily duty as other men do; but, while he is engaged in common things, he is continually dropping seeds of blessing, which spring up behind him in heavenly beauty and fragrance!

In all true living, while men execute their greater plans they are ever unintentionally performing a series of unconscious acts which often yield most beneficent and far-reaching results. There is a wayside ministry, for instance, made up of countless little courtesies, gentle words, mere passing touches on the lives of those we meet casually, impulses given by our salutations, influences flowing indirectly from the things we do and the words we speak a ministry undesigned, unplanned, unnoted, merely incidental and yet it is impossible to measure the wondrous results of these unconscious acts of usefulness.

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What would Jesus do?

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

"Leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

To know more of Christ, and be more like Christ are two of the principal things we have to attend to. In order to this, we must . . .
  study God's Word,
  be much at God's throne of grace,
  depend on the empowerment of the Spirit,
  and walk in fellowship with God's people.

We must consider how Jesus lived when here, and often ask, "What would Jesus do in my circumstances?"

Jesus should be our example, the model which we strive to copy every day.

In vain do we profess Christ, if we are not in some measure like Christ!

"Whoever says he abides in Him, ought to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself." 1 John 2:6 (Amplified Bible)

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An ocean of consolation!

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

"For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ!" 2 Corinthians 1:5

There is great consolation in Christ's unvarying love. The love of Jesus is always the same. It never ebbs but flows on in one continuous stream. His love is . . .
  as ancient as eternity,
  as strong as omnipotence, and
  as unchangeable as His nature.

Creature love may fail, and creatures who love us today, may hate us tomorrow but as Jesus ever lives, so Jesus ever loves. In His . . .
  covenant engagements,
  perfect sin-atoning work,
  tender sympathy,
  constant care,
  prevalent intercession,
  precious Word, and
  unvarying love
there is an ocean of consolation!

Jesus is . . .
  our Substitute, restoring that which sin took away;
  our Surety, paying all the debts we would contract;
  our Shepherd, taking charge of our persons . . .
    to nourish them,
    to preserve them, and
    to set them before His Father's face forever.

His obedience is our righteousness.
His blood is our ransom price.
His death is our life.

There is consolation in Christ's tender and constant care, which extends . . .
  to all our circumstances,
  to all that concerns us,
  even to the very hairs of our heads!
He cares for . . .
  our needs to supply them,
  our holy desires to grant them,
  our eternal salvation to secure it.

There is always consolation in Christ. Whatever may be our outward circumstances, and they may be very trying . . .
  in poverty and pain,
  under losses and crosses,
  however tempted or tried
there is still consolation in Christ!

Creatures may prove crosses,
ordinances may be like wells without water,
providence may frown,
the meal barrel may be empty,
and the brook may dry up
but there is still consolation in Christ.

Though . . .
harassed with doubts,
tormented with fears,
tortured with temptations,
shrouded in darkness, and
drinking the wine of astonishment
  there is still consolation in Christ.

All within may be discouraging, disheartening, and depressing
  our evidences may be lost,
  our fears may be great,
  our convictions may be painful,
  and our terrors may be dreadful
but there is still consolation in Christ.

Our immediate prospects may be dark . . .
  all going out and nothing coming in,
  all losses and no gains,
  disease may be working in our body,
  old age may be creeping upon us,
  our business may be failing,
  claims upon us may be increasing,
  our families may be increasingly trying
  but there is still consolation in Christ!

Yes, though the crops fail,
though provisions give out,
though resources are cut off, and
poverty stares us in the face let things be as bad as they may, and threaten to be ever so much worse there is still consolation in Christ.

Yes, when all without us is dark, and all within us dreary;
when friends are removed, and enemies increase;
when with Jacob we are ready to look around and before us, and say, "All these things are against me!" There is still consolation in Christ!

As there is always consolation in Christ we should learn . . .
  to know and love Christ,
  to know and love Him well,
  to know and love Him experimentally,
  to know and love Him in His person, offices, and work,
  to know and love Him in His relations, characters, and love,
  to know and love Him as our unchanging source of supply, comfort, and peace.

We should trust Christ at all times and in all circumstances.
However our experiences may vary He is ever the same!
His Word is like the great mountains!
His heart is an ocean of love!
His faithfulness reaches to the very Heavens!

He is our strength, and we must look to Him to strengthen us.
He is our wisdom, and we must look to Him to counsel us.
He is our righteousness, and we must look to Him to justify us.
He is all in all to us, and therefore we must . . .
  look to Him for all,
  go to Him with all, and
  expect Him to bring us through all.

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O that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

"You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!" Psalm 119:4, 5

THE COMMAND. "You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently."
God's precepts are to be kept we should keep them . . .
  in our minds and memories, and
  in our practice and daily behavior.

They are to be kept diligently . . .
  as our rule of conduct,
  as our guide in all of life.

They are to be kept with sincerity, promptness, and careful attention.

We should keep them as the command of God of God who is our Father, the source and giver of all good things.

We should keep them too, as those who must give an account.

THE DEVOUT ASPIRATION. "O that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!" This aspiration expresses a love to the precepts, and an approval of them. It intimates that there are hindrances or difficulties in the way of keeping them . . .
  Satan hinders,
  the world hinders,
  the flesh hinders.

This aspiration is a recognition of our weakness and a desire for Divine strength. Divine influence is necessary to enable us to keep God's statutes. He who gives the precept must give the wisdom and the strength, necessary to observe it. He who requires obedience is ready to give us ability to render it. Let us then take every precept to His throne of grace, and with a hearty desire to do all that God commands, just because he commands it, and with a view to His glory; and cry out from the depths of the soul, "O that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!"

Beloved, if we perform duty in a right spirit, it will soon become our delight. It will . . .
  bring us near to God,
  keep us dependent on Jesus, and
  lead us into close fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
It will preserve us from a thousand snares and introduce us to a thousand unknown, and unexpected joys!

Gracious Lord, direct us daily, that we may keep your precepts diligently!

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True riches and honor!

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)

"Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come!" 1 Timothy 4:8

"Riches and honor are with Me. Yes, enduring wealth and righteousness!" Proverbs 8:18

Riches and honor fascinate worldly men they will therefore risk anything and everything in the pursuit of them. Tell a poor man how he may get a fortune, or a rich man how he may rise to honor and they are all attention, and are prepared to do your bidding. To meet this disposition in man, Wisdom presents itself as the source of riches and honor, saying, "Riches and honor are with Me. Yes, enduring wealth and righteousness!" Wisdom represents Christ. To possess Christ, is to possess unsearchable riches! (Ephesians 3:8)

THE WEALTH OF GODLINESS. "Riches are with Me." That is, all things necessary for life and godliness. The godly man is a truly wealthy man. A little of earth, with God's blessing, will go a long way with him. But the riches of godliness, are principally riches of grace answering to that in nature, which procures food, clothing, medicine, residence, pleasure, and knowledge:
A godly man has bread to eat, which the world knows nothing of even the bread of life, which came down from Heaven.
He is clothed with the best robe, even the Savior's righteousness; and wears the garments of salvation every day.
For his use, are the leaves of the tree of life, which heal the soul; and the famous balm of Gilead, which restores spiritual health, and preserves it.
To him, the Lord is a strong refuge, to which he may continually resort.
Of the divine rivers of pleasure he may drink.
He has an unction from the Holy One, and knows all things necessary for him to know.

The riches of grace, prepare for the riches of glory . . .
  a glorious heavenly mansion,
  a crown of righteousness, and
  an unfading and incorruptible inheritance!

Godliness is true wealth. It puts a man in possession of all that he will need in life and in death and all that he can enjoy throughout eternity! The godly man is always rich, and though he may appear to be poor as there is much laid up for him in Heaven! These are desirable riches, they cannot be lost!

THE DIGNITY OF GODLINESS. "Honor is with Me." Not the honor of the world, which is like a fading flower but "the honor which comes from God alone." Jesus, the King of Heaven, is the source and giver of all spiritual honor. All His people are raised to dignity. What honor can exceed this, to be . . .
  the bride of the only begotten Son of God;
  the children of the Most High God,
  the brethren of the Lord of life and glory,
  the joint heirs with Jesus, who is Heir of all things,
  the forever friends of God, and
  made eternal kings and priests!
O the dignity conferred on every believer in Jesus the poorest, the weakest, the most despised of them!

A godly man is always honorable. He may be despised now, his sun may be obscured by some cloud at present but it will soon burst forth in splendor and glory! The world knows him not but then it knew not Jesus. He is like Jesus in his humiliation now but he will be like Jesus in his glorification before long.

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God is love!

(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace!" 1860)

"God is love!" 1 John 4:16

God is love in His nature. As God's nature is love so His love must be like His nature.

Is He INFINITE? Then His love must be infinite love; and so it is, for it not only surpasses expression but is beyond conception. "The love of God which surpasses knowledge."

Is His nature ETERNAL? Then His love must be eternal, and it is; as He says, "I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself!"

Is He IMMUTABLE? Then His love must be immutable, and it is from everlasting to everlasting the same. "For I am the Lord, I do not change; that is why you . . . are not consumed!"

Is He WISE? Then His love must be wisely fixed, wisely exercised, and wisely displayed.

Is He JUST? Then His love must be just; and it is, for by loving His redeemed people He never interferes with the rights of others, or in any way injures them.

Is He FREE in the exercise of His perfections and prerogatives? Then His love must be free, and it is as free . . .
  as the shining of the sun,
  as the falling of the shower,
  as the descent of the dew!
God loves freely, without looking for a cause or reason in man.

Is He OMNIPOTENT? Then His love must be all-powerful; and blessed be His holy name, His sweet and gentle love always goes hand in hand with His omnipotence.

Is He HOLY? Then His love must be holy love, and so it is, for while it is fixed on the sinner it never, directly, or indirectly, in any manner, or in any measure sanctions sin.

God is love, and the love of God is God Himself loving, in accordance with all the glorious attributes, and sublime perfections of His divine nature.

In Christ we were chosen,
in Christ we were blessed with all spiritual blessings,
in Christ we are preserved,
and in Christ we are loved.

To believers, God is love pure, unmixed love.
All His thoughts of us are loving thoughts.
All His words to us are loving words.
All He does in us, for us, or to us He does out of pure love!

"Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her!" Ephesians 5:25

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The description of the godly man

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:1-3

In this Psalm, the description of the godly man is first negative:
  There are certain things he never does.
  There are places in which he is never seen.
  He does not make wicked men his advisers.
  He is not seen with those who are evil.
  No one ever sees him among mockers.
Thus the godly man is known by what he does not do.

Then there are certain things that the godly man does:
He loves God's word, reads it, and feeds upon it.
He is careful to live where his life may be nourished by the streams of grace.

As a result, he is like a tree in his beauty and in his fruitfulness. Fruit is the test of Christian character.

Then the godly man's life does not wither in heat or drought. It is perennial, and lives in all kinds of weather.

Another feature of his life is that everything he does prospers not always in worldly things but even in his losses and trials, he is still blessed. For, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

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God keeps a tear-bottle!

(J.R. Miller, "Evening Thoughts" 1907)

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book!" Psalm 56:8

Tears are sacred in God's sight. The Psalmist said that God keeps a tear-bottle, into which He puts the tears of His people. This means that God in Heaven hears the plashing of earth's tears. It means that His people's sorrows are sacred to Him, that He cherishes them, keeping them as memorials.

Our tears are precious to God, also, because in our sorrow He brings to us blessings which we never could receive but for our sorrow. One of our Lord's Beatitudes is for the sorrowing: "Blessed are those who mourn." It seems strange to us that mourning ones should be put among the blessed or happy ones. The reason is, because only those who suffer can get God's comfort, and this is such a blessing that it is worth while to have sorrow just to receive it.

God holds the tears of penitence as most sacred. Those who weep over their sins, cause joy in Heaven.

"When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them!" Luke 7:37-38

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A New Year's Resolution

(Matthew Henry)

"My times are in Your hand!" Psalm 31:15

Firmly believing that my times are in God's hand, I here submit myself and all my affairs for the ensuing year, to the wise and gracious disposal of God's divine providence. Whether God appoints for me . . . .
  health or sickness,
  peace or trouble,
  comforts or crosses,
  life or death
may His holy will be done!

All my time, strength, and service, I devote to the honor of the Lord Jesus and even my common actions. It is my earnest expectation, hope, and desire, my constant aim and endeavor that Jesus Christ may be magnified in me.

In everything I have to do my entire dependence is upon Jesus Christ for strength. And whatever I do in word or deed, I desire to do all in His name, to make Him my Alpha and Omega. I have all from Him and I would use all for Him.

If this should prove a year of affliction, a sorrowful year to me I will fetch all my supports and comforts from the Lord Jesus and stay myself upon Him, His everlasting consolations, and the good hope I have in Him through grace.

And if it should be my dying year then my times are in the hand of the Lord Jesus. And with a humble reliance upon His mediation, I would venture into the eternal world looking for the blessed hope. Dying as well as living Jesus Christ will, I trust, be gain and advantage to me.

Oh, that the grace of God may be sufficient for me, to keep me always a humble sense of my own unworthiness, weakness, folly, and infirmity together with a humble dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ for both righteousness and strength.